Interview with Markus Lambert, Head of LG Electronics’ Energy Division, Australia
Markus Lambert, the head of LG Energy has been working in the solar industry since 2006. In that time he has seen many changes and he believes the best decades of solar and batteries are still in front of us. Australian Energy Storage Alliance (AESA) has caught up with Markus about the importance of using high efficient panels with storage solutions.
Q: Some in the industry say the trend is to fit batteries that are too big for requirements – that owners would be better off with smaller storage capacity for shorter ROI– but your position is that big batteries are good and that an upgrade to super-efficient LG panels makes sense, so owners have plenty of power at their disposal.
An average residential house consumption is approx 20 -24kWh per day (with many modern open plan larger homes consuming more than double this average). On Average 30%-50% of this will be consumed during the night. If one wants to use solar to harvest during the day and use at night, then the battery capacity should match the night consumption. As solar & battery solutions become the norm, the size of a customer’s roof will limit the size of the solar system and the battery that can be installed, and that’s even before Electric Vehicle charging via solar & batteries. High efficient panels will be a must in the very near future.
Q: You mention “future-proof” systems, but what do you mean? Is this based on the assumption electricity consumption will rise?
If you buy a “future proof” solar system now, then batteries have to be part of your thinking. Therefore one should designs the modern solar system with high efficient panels to create spare roof capacity for future system expansions to fill batteries and EVS charging. Buy an inefficient 250 to 280W now and you fill up valuable real estate on the roof unnecessarily. It will most likely be pulled off within 5 to 10 years as households will be looking for extra capacity. Not much of an environmental and financial outcome. 330W to 360W panels are the better solution.
Q: What will drive this demand for more electricity and for batteries?
If we look back 20 years – there was one TV and limited air-conditioning, fridges were smaller etc so we are having a change in living standards to start off with. The big game changer will be EVS, which I see as a low hanging fruit to combine climate change, if we use home solar to charge the car. An Electric Vehicle needs about 15 kWh to drive 100km – so that around 4 kW of additional solar one would need to fit on ones house , that 16 in-efficient old technology 250W panels or 11 of the new LG 360s NeON R , 60 cell panels. Additionally, with increasing distributed solar capacity and pending retirement of coal fired generators, the network will be looking for additional capacity to meet peak demand and frequency balancing etc on the grid. We see a time in the not too distant future where there will be more opportunity to sell power from panels and batteries back to the grid at more attractive rates whether that be via aggregated models on the NEM such as with Reposit Power or pier to pier selling or other mechanisms.
Q: The new LG 360W NeON R panels have set new 60 cell output benchmarks. How do you think the NeON R panel, for instance, will affect the inner-city markets?
It allows customers with restricted roof sizes, like inner city terraces or town houses to get a 50% bigger solar system capacity on their roof and fill a battery properly. Right now in the winter months some storage system owner can not fill their batteries with their initial small solar system, as the weather is cloudy and the children are home during school holidays and there is limited electricity left to go into the batteries. High efficient panels is a must have for homeowners with tight roof space, who wish to advance to energy storage.
Q: Do consumers see panels and batteries as generic or are you sometimes surprised by the level of knowledge out there?
In recent years solar panels have been seen as a commodity, pretty much all the same, but the truth is not all panels are built equal. Even within one manufacturer there are differences in build quality. Many customers nowadays undertake a decent amount of research and realise for example that 25 year output warranties are not a real warranty – they are marketing warranties. Consumers start to wise up and looking for brands and built quality for panels and batteries.
Q: How about installers? Are they good at explaining the technology and importance for picking the right product or are they just selling on price?
Australia’s installer landscape is in my opinion split in two groups – Group one offers cheaper less efficient old technology panels and lower quality battery solutions with lower value inverters for a cheaper price and they need volume to make money. The second group is more future oriented in their offering and they design customised value added solutions and focusing on an energy solution for the whole home, not just a few panels slapped here and there. The 2nd group is very good at explaining the “future proof” solution and creating a long term energy solution.
Q: What are the essential points to consider when choosing panels and batteries?
1) Read the warranties. Many of them say they will not cover for labour, when the Australian Consumer Law states that customers should not be out of pocket if a product fails in the warranty period, so labour for replacing a failed product should always be paid for by the manufacturer. That’s how I read the law.
2) If you do not have a mansion with a huge roof, get an efficient panel now and keep roof space in reserve for future energy developments including electric vehicles.
3) Do not be fooled by the Tier 1 label. It is NOT a sign of build quality. Do your research.
Fore more details please contact Markus Lambert, Head of LG Electronics’ Energy Division